Sunday, November 18, 2012

The early months of the War saw the assembly of armies that consisted of thousands of young men that had never before been away from home. Army chaplains complained that “seductive influences of sin” and “legions of devils” infested the camps. Among the sins were “spirituous liquors,” card playing, gambling, and profanity. Early in the war, one Confederate soldier said “if the South is overthrown, the epitaph should be ‘died of whiskey.’”

Though there were provisions made for chaplains in the Confederate Army, their pay was lower than that of other Confederate officers, and that of chaplains in the Union Army. There were a lot of issues in the attempts to form a legitimate chaplain’s corps in the Confederate Army. It is not known how many unpaid missionaries accompanied the army, and many pastors served as part-time missionaries. Conditions and provisions for chaplains improved when General Robert E. Lee took command in June 1862.

The beginning of the Great Revival appears to have started in the winter of 1862-1863 in Fredericksburg and the rest of the Lower Valley, and Chancellorsville, though its roots were earlier in the war. Some have narrowed it down to the first service performed at the Williams Street Methodist Church in Fredericksburg by the chaplain of the 17th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, of Barksdale’s Brigade, Rev. William B. Owen. He was soon joined by privates Clairborne McDonald and Thomas West of the 13th Mississippi, and they appeared to be filling the fairly large church seven nights a week. It was written in a letter by private William H. Hill of Company H, 13th Mississippi, that: “From 40 to 50 soldiers are at the mourner’s bench every night” waiting to be “saved” from their sins. 

J. William Jones, Confederate chaplain and author of “Christ in the Camp”, notes that about the same time, similar occurrences were taking place in Trimble’s Brigade, in the 12th and 44th Georgia Regiments, after the army’s return from the Maryland Campaign.

To be continued...

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